12 times I apologised and didn’t mean it

12 times I apologised and didn’t mean it

21 November 2016

Maybe I was late to the game, but my love of podcasts started almost two years ago when, home for Christmas, my sister shoved her iPod Nano into my hand and demanded that I listen to this show call Serial.

Naturally, I absolutely gobbled it up and was hooked. After Serial, a longtime favourite was the Women’s Hour podcast, (don’t knock it, that show is an institution I tell you, an institution!), and more recently I’ve been listening to the Guilty Feminist. Hosted by the hilarious, honest and wonderfully odd Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White, each episode tackles a different topic and one of their best so far was all about apologising.

The Guilty Feminist, Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White (Instagram @theguiltyfeminist)

There’s so much out there about how women apologise more than men, downplay their achievements and all that self-depreciating jazz. But it wasn’t until I heard Deborah talk about how difficult she found it to simply pitch a project to a male comedian with confidence – without saying sorry or filling silences with self-doubt – that something inside me really clicked.

Quick note, if you think that challenge sounds simple then you are clearly: a) A man b) Lying c) Beyoncé d) All of the above – a man lying about being Beyonce and, hey, who am I to judge?

Anyway, I was suddenly acutely aware of how often I drop the ‘S’ word. As a child, I actually found myself apologising for saying sorry, like a sad broken record, more than once. And now as an adult (apparently), I realised that I start most conversations with colleagues, especially male colleagues, with a ‘sorry’. As if I’m starting every interaction by apologising for being in their presence.

I thought to myself, as I often do in times of need: what would Bowie do? As ever, the answer varies depending on the era of Bowie*, but he’d probably do something like throw on a diamante eye patch, sing his colleagues a freaky freaky song and dance out the office red mullet held high. One thing Bowie would certainly never ever do is apologise.

Sadly, being Bowie is tough, (otherwise we’d all be Ziggy Stardusting our way through life), and in making an effort not to apologise unnecessarily I’ve left a few men rather bemused by starting conversations with an awkward, “Sorry, hang on… no I’m not…anyway!”. And once, in a heated discussion I declared, “I’m sorry but I’m not going to apologise…damn!”. I’m pretty sure my boss thinks I’m insane, but that might have something to do with the diamante eye patch.

Whether it’s because I’m female, British or as awkward as heck, I’m not sure, but I regularly apologise for the weirdest things and often when I don’t even mean it, such as…

  1. Trying to get past people walking extremely slowly up escalators.
  2. Calling a restaurant to book a table.
  3. Ordering a drink at a bar.
  4. When people bump into me.
  5. When I can’t hear someone who’s talking to me across a room and is clearly too lazy to come over.
  6. Kindly declining the advances of a strange man in a bar / café / street / anywhere.
  7. Proposing an idea at work.
  8. Handing over a note at the till when I don’t have the exact change.
  9. After I’ve told a fantastically hilarious cheese joke.
  10. Stopping (read: chasing down) someone to pet their dog.
  11. Getting in a taxi.
  12. Not replying to Whatsapp messages immediately (those blue ticks betray me every time)

Obviously there are times when apologising is a must and, as a stereotypical awkward Brit, I approve of all and any necessary apologies. But maybe, before starting every conversation on the back foot, we should all ask ourselves #WWBD (What Would Bowie Do?).

Or maybe not, it’s up to you. I just thought it’d be nice, I’m sorry…

*I don’t like to ask what would the Thin White Duke Bowie would do, because the answer would most likely be cocaine…

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